The Myth of Perfection
By Steven Burns
There is often the misconception that to be effective in the social world you have to appear like some slick, good looking, fast talking salesperson. You'll be pleased to know (unless of course you are some slick, fast talking salesperson) that this is absolutely not true. In fact striving to be perfect in the way you look, what you say and the way you say it can sometimes have a detrimental effect on your level of social influence.
More often than not if you appear too perfect to people then they will struggle to relate to you and you will lose connection. Now by this I do not mean that you should not make an effort to iron out the rough edges and work towards being as articulate as you can.
What I do mean is that it is useful to recognise that by presenting yourself as a normal human being, faults included, you can actually relate better to people and connect with them at a level that is both natural and honest.
Also, never be under the notion that you have to be like someone else in order to be accepted. You just have to be yourself, flaws included.
A few years ago I was on a public speaking course in London with roughly another 100 people. After a brief training session we were put into groups and asked to deliver a 3 minute presentation about ourselves.
The first person up was this tall, muscular, dark haired gentleman. In a previous conversation he had told me that he was an avid fan of the American motivational speaker Tony Robbins and that he had recently attended one of his courses for the 9th time!
The more the conversation went on the more I was beginning to get the impression that he modelled nearly every part of his appearance, voice, lifestyle and even personality on Tony Robbins.
As he strode up to the stage he held his head up high, shoulders back with a huge smile from ear to ear. He turned to face the audience, punched his fist into the air and yelled in the most motivational voice he could muster, "Raise your hands in the air if you want to be happy?"
Not one single person out of a room of 20 put their hands up... Not wanting to appear dispirited he continued his presentation in incredibly dynamic and clinical fashion. By the end of it, even though every word and gesture was perfect, he got very little response, if any, from the audience.
Now there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to be someone else. It does, however, often have a negative effect when it comes to social interaction. No matter how hard this guy wanted to be Tony Robbins he was never going to be as good as being Tony Robbins as Tony Robbins is.
To conclude the story, the next person up was a shy looking, short, rather shabbily presented gentlemen. He pre-ceded in telling one of the most heartfelt, humorous and engaging stories I had heard for a long time. He stumbled through it, made mistakes and his gestures were all over the place but he connected with the audience at a deep level and walked off the stage leaving them wanting more.
My point is that, while being able to present your message clearly and dynamically is important, it's far more important to speak about what comes naturally from within and talk from your heart. Let the person know that, while you are a skilled communicator, you have flaws just like everyone else.
But you can still learn from other people. Of course I don't mean that you shouldn't practice becoming clearer, more concise and dynamic. What I do mean is focus first on who you are, what is important to you and what your unique message is and then, from that point, look to improve the way you deliver it.
I've got to also point out that it is still incredibly useful to watch and learn from other people. In fact, I would recommend it as one of the most time effective ways to learn a new skill. Just don't copy them completely!
As the wonderful Personal Development speaker Jim Rohn so elegantly said, "Become a student of style but don't just copy someone's style. Rather pick out bits here and there that work and you like and integrate them into your own personal style in as natural way as you possibly can."
Steven Burns is an NLP Trainer from Scotland, well known as "The People's Coach," and has recently started specializing in helping people let go of social fears and become more socially confident. Check out his latest work at Guide to Social Confidence.com
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